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Get the facts, stay informed.

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19 also known as 2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans.

The majority of cases have been detected in China, however, cases have also been confirmed in several countries, including Australia.

  • Call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 for people with questions regarding prevention and the spread of coronavirus.
  • Call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 to speak to a registered nurse who can provide advice when you’re not sure what to do — whether you should see a local GP, manage the condition at home, or go to an emergency department, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you have travelled recently to China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia, or have had contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, and are experiencing any of the below symptoms seek medical help.

Healthdirect Australia

Healthdirect Australia is working closely with the Commonwealth, State and Territory Health Departments to ensure  information and advice is regularly updated.

The healthdirect website includes the following information and tools:

  • Specific information on the new COVID-19 coronavirus, including symptoms, spread, rate of infection, diagnosis and treatment.
  • healthdirect blog FAQs about the Covid-19 coronavirus (‘novel coronavirus’)
  • healthdirect Symptom Checker guides you to the appropriate healthcare action, updated with information on novel coronavirus. Also available on the healthdirect app.
Visit the healthdirect website

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19 also known as 2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus affecting humans.

The majority of cases have been detected in China, however cases have also been confirmed in several countries, including Australia. This is an evolving situation and we will endeavour to keep this page updated with new information as it becomes available.

On this page you’ll find:

Consider COVID-19 infection in people with both epidemiological AND clinical criteria:

Epidemiological criteria

  • History of travel in, or transit through, mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) in the 14 days before illness onset.

OR

  • Contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Consider PCR testing people with a clinically compatible illness who have travelled to any of the following countries in the 14 days before onset of symptoms: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand. The risk for travellers returning from these countries is still considered to be lower than for mainland China.

Clinical criteria

  • Fever

OR

  • Acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath or cough) with or without fever.

Patients are being encouraged to call their GP, emergency department or healthdirect for advice before attending. 

For a patient who meets these criteria:

 If a patient calls you:

  • Ask if they have travelled to, or transited through China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea or Iran and if they have fever or any respiratory symptoms.
  • If they report the above travel and symptoms, arrange further assessment and testing.
  • If you decide to test someone who has been in one of the listed countries, ask them to wear a surgical mask and self-isolate until they have their COVID-19 test result.
  • If you decide a patient has severe symptoms (e.g dyspnoea and severe cough), refer them to your local emergency department for assessment and testing. Please call ahead.
  • If you decide a patient has mild to moderate symptoms, arrange testing at your practice or the local pathology collection centres (see ‘Advice on testing’).

If a patient presents without calling:

  • Ask the patient to wear a surgical mask and move them to a separate room.
  • Use standard, contact and droplet transmission precautions – including a surgical mask, long-sleeved gown, gloves and protective eyewear – when entering the room (additional precautions needed if collecting a specimen, see below).
  • Phone your Public Health Unit (1300 066 055) if you need further information.

Avoid use of a nebuliser if COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed. Alternative administration devices (eg. spacers) should be used for these patients.

For a patient who DOES NOT meet these criteria:

Do not send ASYMPTOMATIC patients with a travel exposure to China to the emergency department. Inform them of the need to self-isolate at home for 14 days after departing China. There is no available test for asymptomatic patients to document ‘clearance’ for return to work or school.

For patients with symptoms who DO NOT have the relevant epidemiological history (see above criteria) they can be assessed in the GP surgery, with the usual infection control precautions as per patients with suspected influenza.  

If you are unsure whether the case definition (epidemiological or clinical criteria) is met, contact the Public Health Unit (1300 066 055) for advice.

Advice on testing

If the practice is equipped from an infection control perspective and the GP feels comfortable in collecting the specimen:

  • Specimen collection for COVID-19 can be performed in community settings for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Patients with severe symptoms (eg. dyspnoea or frequent, severe or productive coughing episodes) should be referred to hospital for specimen collection using contact and airborne precautions, ideally in a negative pressure room.
  • Use standard, contact and droplet transmission precautions, including a surgical mask, long-sleeved gown, gloves, protective eyewear.
  • Recommended specimens are:
    • Two combined nose and throat viral swabs, or nasopharyngeal viral swabs.
    • Lower respiratory specimen (sputum) if obtainable.
  • Request COVID-19 testing and screen for routine respiratory pathogens. Ensure the patient’s travel history, symptoms and date of onset of symptoms is noted on the laboratory request form.
  • As for all other pathology test requests, you are responsible for informing the patient about their test results.
  • Standard environmental cleaning of the room needs to be performed after seeing the patient. If the patient coughs while the sample is being taken the room should be cleaned and not used for patient consultation for at least 30 minutes. Click here to learn more.

If appropriate PPE is not available at your practice, private pathology providers can collect a sample provided the GP calls ahead, and the patient is able to get to the facility without public transport. Click here to access locations and contact details for dedicated coronavirus private testing collection centres.

Patients who are being tested in an outpatient setting need self-isolation while awaiting results. Provide them with a face mask and a fact sheet on home isolation.

If neither of these are options, and/or the patient has significant illness, they should be referred to the Emergency Department with prior notification to the FACEM on call.

 

Advice on isolation

  • People need to isolate themselves in their home or hotel for 14 days after last contact or date of departure if they have been:
    • in contact with a person sick with novel coronavirus infection.
    • in Hubei Province, China in the past 14 days.
    • in, or transited through, mainland China (not including Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan) since 1 February 2020.
  • Even if you have been tested for coronavirus and received a negative result, you will still need self-isolation for 14 days if you fulfill the above criteria.
  • If you have concerns about the ability of a patient to self-isolate (for example if the patient lives in a residential facility in a university), contact the Public Health Unit (1300 066 055) so they can coordinate a response.
  • Click here for more information about home isolation.

Past Webinars

4 February, 2020
RACGP President, Dr Harry Nespolon, and Chair of the NSW&ACT Disaster Management Committee, Dr Penny Burns and NSW Public Health leaders provided updates including the containment of the virus and changes that enable GPs to test for the virus in their practices.

11 February, 2020
Presented by the RACGP and NSW Ministry of Health.

Request your free P2 and surgical masks

NSW Health is organising free P2 and surgical masks for general practices to be distributed via PHNs. To request masks, please contact your North Coast PHN Quality Improvement Support Officer.

Visit the NSW Health website for more information about P2 masks and an instructional ‘how to wear’ video.

Visit the NSW Health website

Download waiting room materials

For more information, visit the links below:

NSW Health website homepage:

MNC and NNSW HealthPathways notifiable diseases web page
(Username: manchealth Password: conn3ct3d)

Pandemic Respiratory Illness HealthPathway
(Username: manchealth Password: conn3ct3d)

flags We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we live and work, the Bundjalung, Arakwal, Yaegl, Gumbaynggirr, Githabul, Dunghutti and Birpai Nations, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

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flags We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we live and work, the Bundjalung, Arakwal, Yaegl, Gumbaynggirr, Githabul, Dunghutti and Birpai Nations, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.